Edited by Olivia Spahn-Vieira
On February 18th, 2021, NASA’s Perseverance Rover landed on Mars!
While it was a very exciting moment for the scientific community (and those of us watching on TV, not fully understanding what was happening), you may be left with a few questions. Namely, why is there a rover on Mars? How is this going to affect my life? And the one we’re all wondering – when are humans going to Mars?
What is the point of this mission?
According to NASA’s website, the four objectives of the Mars 2020 mission are “studying Mars’ habitability, seeking signs of past microbial life, collecting and caching samples, and preparing for future human missions”. In non-science speak, what that means is that Perseverance will be looking for places on Mars that could have been capable of supporting ancient life. Once it finds those places, it will look for signs of past life there. Specifically, there are special rocks that are known to preserve signs of life for a very long time, so it will be searching for those! It will also be collecting rock and “soil” samples to be stored, and testing the oxygen production in the atmosphere to prepare for human endeavours.
Is this going to affect me at all?
Right now, it might not feel like this is affecting your life. But if the rover is successful in finding signs of ancient life, it will be proof that Earth is not the only planet that has had life on it. It would be evidence of ancient aliens! It could also provide us a glimpse into what the Earth might look like, hundreds of millions or billions of years down the road (there is evidence supporting the claim that Mars was once a wet planet like Earth, very, very long ago). This mission is also laying the groundwork for human missions to Mars, which brings me to…
When are humans going to Mars?
Right now, there isn’t a definitive answer to this question. NASA is aiming to have the next humans on the moon (including the first woman!) by 2024. This mission will bring scientific instruments and technology demonstrations to the moon, which will pave the way for human landers that will take people from the lunar surface to the Martian surface. It may seem far away, but it will happen before we know it!